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Favorite Places in Macau: The Shows at the Wynn

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The 'Dragon of Fortune' show at the Wynn, Macau

The 'Dragon of Fortune' show at the Wynn, Macau

There’s heavy competition among the Macau hotels and casinos. So most of them try to be unique in some way – either through a special decoration theme, through opulence, technical gizmos or sheer size.

The Wynn in Macau tries to beat the competition through style and some automated shows.

Every fifteen minutes, there’s a show at the artificial lake in front of the hotel. The fountains are synchronized to music that ranges from classical symphonic favorites to Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding out for a Hero’.

It’s all very dramatic: sound and light, fire and water. Expect to get wet, depending on where you stand beside the fountain pool and where the wind is coming from.

When you’ve seen the fountain show, stroll through the hotel shopping mall past the Gucci, Armani and Prada stores to the mall rotunda.

The rotunda is home to two shows – one always starts on the full hour, the other at the half hour.

At the full hour, you’ll see the dragon show. As the clock strikes the hour, the lights in the rotunda dim and dramatic music sets in.

Below the rotunda’s cupola, an opening in the ground opens, fake fog seeps out and the ‘Dragon of Fortune’ appears.

The dragon is at least five meters high and completely covered in gold plate. As the statue of the dragon rises from the underworld, it slowly turns and the lotus flower which it guards lights up and opens.

Then the dragon slowly descends back into its cave in the ground. The lights come back on in the rotunda and hotel employees with vacuum cleaners quickly clean the place so that everything’s ready for the next show.

They don’t have much time because the next performance starts at the half hour. But that show is different: instead of the dragon, a gold tree rises up from below the ground and turns majestically. The leaves on this 33-foot ‘Tree of Prosperity’ are 24-karat gold.

Above the tree, the rotunda’s cupola opens (again to dramatic music) and a giant chandelier appears. Liberace would have loved it.

The ‘Tree of Prosperity’ show usually moves the Asian visitors to rounds of applause when it’s over.

I don’t quite understand why, but in any case all of these fully automated shows at the Wynn are good fun – and they’re free.

Written by Thorsten

May 22, 2009 at 10:04 am

Favorite places in Macau: 38 Lounge

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38 Lounge atop the Altira Hotel

One of my favourite places in Macau is ‘38 Lounge’.

It’s a rooftop bar that feels like it’s straight out of a James Bond movie.

‘38 Lounge’ is situated on the top floor of the Altira Hotel on Taipa Island, which is the island right next to Macau Island.

The islands are connected by a number of bridges so that it’s easy to go back and forth.

38 Lounge is purist and stylish

The Altira is all about restrained elegance. You feel it the moment you step through its front doors.

The hotel lobby is very minimalist. Some marble, some dark wood and some tall bamboo plants. There’s a pleasant scent in the air.

The view when you step off the elevatorA bell boy calls the elevator for us and we ride to the top of the building.

As we leave the elevator, we’re greeted by a breathtaking view over Macau Island.

After we’ve taken that in, another Altira staff member shows us the way to the ’38 Lounge’.

38 Lounge There’s an indoor and an outdoor area. Inside, you can lounge in comfortable white sofas and chairs, sip your wine and watch the sunset through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

What’s even better is sitting outside on the lounge’s roof terrace. The view of the skyline of Macau and of mainland China is breathtaking.

And another nice thing up here is that ‘38 Lounge’ has Macau’s longest happy hour. It lasts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Written by Thorsten

May 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

Macau’s Venetian Hotel is Venice on steroids

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The Venetian Hotel, MacauMacau’s Venetian Hotel isn’t your quiet little neighborhood Bed and Breakfast.

With its 40 stories, 3000 suites and 980 000 square meters, it’s the fourth largest building in the world by area.

According to the Venetian website, the hotel is large enough to hold ninety Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

And after having visited the Venetian myself, I think that’s probably not even exaggerated.

This hotel is mind-blowing

Macau’s Venetian Hotel is gigantic. It totally floored me. After a few hours in this huge hotel, casino and shopping complex, I was gasping for air.

Even though I was in many ways fascinated by this artificial, alluring, air conditioned environment, I just wanted to get out and get back in touch with the real world.

At Macau’s Venetian Hotel, everything is on a super-human scale. The hotel corridors are as wide as highways. Walking down these long corridors, I felt dwarfed by the dimensions.

signs help hotel guests find their wayThe hotel is so confusingly complex that there are signs everywhere pointing visitors the way. Otherwise the guests would just get lost.

The hotel has to  supply visitors with hotel maps to help them find their way in this super-structure.

As you wander these hallways and look at all the gold plated ornaments and crystal chandeliers, you get an impression of how much money the casinos must generate.

Because, after all, it’s the casino money that pays for all this nouveau riche splendor.

According to Germany’s stern magazine, the Venetian cost more than two billion US dollars to build. That’s a lot. But it may not take the Venetian long to pay off that huge investment.

Another Macau hotel, The Sands, cost some one billion Euros ($ 1.35 billion). And it took The Sands only eleven months to get out of the red, writes Germany’s renowned Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Big casinos mean big money

Macau has surpassed Las Vegas with regard to revenues from the casinos.

Macau’sVenetian boasts the largest casino in the world, with 3400 slot machines and more than 800 gambling tables. And the casino is never empty – it’s one of the busiest places in the whole hotel complex.

Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed in the casinos, so I couldn’t take any pictures in that part of the hotel.

indoor canals in the third floor shopping mall

Shopping in an air-conditioned version of Venice

Unlike the casinos, the shopping mall on the third floor of the Venetian doesn’t seem to generate a lot of revenue.

When I was there, it was virtually deserted. Only a few people strolled around luxurious fashion and jewellery stores.

But it seemed to me that everyone just looked, and no one bought anything. I hardly saw anybody with shopping bags.

The main attractions of the shopping mall at the Venetian are the canals and the gondolas. It’s an indoor Venice with eternal blue skies and air-conditioning.

Chinese gondoliers Some of the gondoliers are really imported from Europe or America, but many are Chinese.

And just like the real Italian gondoliers in Venice, these Chinese copies serenade the tourists with schmaltzy belcanto opera arias.

It’s really pretty absurd if you think about it: Chinese men, costumed as Italian gondoliers, pretending to stoke a motorized gondola through fake canals on the third floor of a hotel complex in Asia.

Does life get any more bizarre?

Written by Thorsten

May 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Stores stay closed in Macau

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closed stores in MacauOne thing I still haven’t figured out about Macau is why you see so many closed shops downtown.

It seems that at all times of the day, at least half of the stores have their metal shutters down or iron grates drawn. Or both.

There’s no information about opening hours, no sign ‘Out to lunch’ or any indication whether these shops will ever open up again.

half the shops are closedIt seems that on any downtown shopping street, at least half of the stores will be permanently closed.

Is this due to the current financial crisis? Were all these shopkeepers forced out of business?

Or do they just open at such irregular hours that I never happen to chatch their stores open?

Things are different in Macau than in other Asian cities

The Macau shop-opening hours are definitely in stark contrast to practices on the Chinese mainland.

closed shop in MacauStores in Beijing or Shanghai, for instance, seem to be open for business almost around the clock.

The same applies to cities in other Asian countries like Vietnam or Cambodia.

I wonder why.

But whenever I’ll think of Macau in the future, I’ll remember it as the place with the drawn shutters.

Written by Thorsten

May 15, 2009 at 7:21 am

Marry in Macau – but bring your own food

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downtown MacauMost travel books and travel websites describe Macau as a gourmet’s paradise.

After having been here for a week, I can’t really agree.

And I suspect that all those rave review about the great Portuguese and Chinese food you can find in Macau must somehow have been masterminded by the Macau board of tourism.

Where’s the beef?

For the first couple of days in Macau, we had a hard time even finding restaurants.

In other cities, you come across dozens of decent eateries just by exploring any downtown street.

In Beijing or Shanghai, for instance, locals and tourists love to go out to eat. There are amazing restaurants everywhere. I kind of expected the same from Macau.

But in Macau’s downtown streets, all you see is some neon-lit snack bars or very basic eateries. And these places tend to offer low quality at a high price.

We felt disappointed or even ripped off almost every night.

I guess there must be great restaurants in some of the big hotels – but you’d probably have to win big at the local casinos before you could afford to have dinner there every night.

After our fourth or fifth disappointing dinner here, we finally found some reasonable places in the area behind Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen.

There are Indian, Lebanese, Italian paces that offer pretty good food at moderate prices (I highly recommend the food at “Taste of India“, although the service may be a bit slow there sometimes).

Less restaurants, more wedding outfitters than elsewhere

wedding serviceMacau may have less downtown restaurants, but it definitely has more wedding outfitters than any city I’ve been to recently.

On some commercial streets, the competition is so tight that you wonder how they can all survive.

The wedding dresses and tuxedos displayed in the shop windows are probably best described with words like interesting, daring, different or colorful.

wedding gowns in a store windowIt seems to me that some of those Macau fashion designers have seen too many pictures of Louis XIV and the fashions at the French court of the 17th century.

Their gowns are an extravaganza of frills and rhinestones. The colors range from purple to canary-yellow to turquoise.

photos for the wedding albumOf course they also have white wedding dresses – these are probably the most popular.

At least white dresses are all you see when you see couples at the picturesque places of Macau, posing for the pictures that will make up their wedding albums.

But the wedding outfitters hardly ever dress their store dummies in those elegant white outfits.

purple brideThey mostly put the other colors and designs on display.

I guess they hope to encourage prospective couples to go for those more colorful version of their Louis XXXII creations.

Here’s to purple, yellow and flamingo-colored brides.

And good luck at trying to find a restaurant for the wedding party in Macau…

Written by Thorsten

May 11, 2009 at 7:12 am

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